It would be safe to say that 2020 is not going as planned.
It almost seems counterproductive to focus on B2B marketing trends at a time like this when there is still so much up in the air. However, life is still going on. Consumers are still consuming, albeit in different ways than before. For some industries, website traffic is actually up, as is their marketing eblast open rates. While some companies have unfortunately gone under, others are seeing unprecedented sales.
There is definitely a need to focus on what the “new normal” will be like (read our blog post on this topic here), but we can guarantee it doesn’t involve abandoning hope or simply stopping. It also doesn’t include a constant barrage of ads that talk about how we’re “all in this together” during “these unprecedented times” while happy celebrities Zoom-call one another.
Rest assured, those will end soon.
So, let’s focus on being proactive for the benefit of our customers. Let’s take a look at the top B2B marketing trends of 2020 and see how they still can and should be applied moving forward
According to Salesforce, 72% of B2B buyers expect companies to personalize their communication based on their preferences, with 45% looking for actual personalized content portals. 84% of customers say being treated like a person, not a number, is very important to winning their business.
The cat must be out of the bag, as personalization is the top strategy for 47% of B2B marketers in 2020.
Long gone are the days of broad stroke, generic messaging to your target audience. Buyers expect you to do your homework first and reach out in a personal way that shows you’re listening, and that you’re genuinely interested in helping them.
And whatever you do, don’t get their name wrong.
In 2016, according to a Demand Gen Report survey, 47% of respondents had an ABM strategy in place. Just three years later, the same survey had only 6% not using ABM.
If you’re not yet familiar with account-based marketing (ABM), it’s when the traditional sales funnel is flipped on its head. Instead of blasting one message out to your entire audience, marketers select key prospects from targeted accounts and focus specifically on them. (Read our blog posts on ABM here and here.)
One of the best factors? Marketing and sales must work together, determining key prospects and creating customized (and personalized) campaigns to increase revenue.
Relative to other marketing activities, ABM is reported to deliver 97% higher ROI. Be prepared to hear this term used more and more frequently.
Ask any restaurateur just how powerful one negative Yelp review can be. Now imagine B2B brands beginning to struggle with the same sort of feedback.
Customer experience is now expected to be the number one key brand differentiator, even more so than product and price, with 86% of B2B buyers saying they’re willing to pay more for a great customer experience.
As the world become more digital, so carries the weight of bad reviews on Google My Business, negative social media comments and poor reviews on mobile app stores. Focusing on the customer experience, from front-end sales to ongoing support, can increase revenue by 5% to 10%. It’s not just what the customer wants anymore, it’s what they expect, and it can no longer be ignored.
You’ve seen them. You’ve probably used them. Chatbots, and the artificial intelligence backing them, are providing a much higher level of service than many anticipated. A Business Insider report concluded that by 2020, 80% of businesses would have personalized chatbots, saving them nearly $38 billion.
And by 2021, it’s predicted that enterprises will invest an additional $400 million into chatbots. Not only do they give customers an easy way to get answers to simple questions, 64% of agents with AI chatbots say they’re able to spend the majority of their time solving complex problems, compared to only 50% for those without.
Plus, it’s a great automated way to collect new leads.
Video Marketing and Augmented Reality
If it wasn’t a trend before the pandemic, it certainly is now. Back in 2018, 87% of consumers said they wanted more videos from brands, not less.
When asked to rank the reasons why consumers watch video content, a recent YouTube survey showed the #1 reason users watch videos is to “relax and unwind.” Not surprising. What is surprising is that just behind that was “Teaches me something new” and “Allows me to dig deeper into my interests.”
Online videos aren’t just for entertainment anymore. B2B marketers can leverage video for case studies, customer service, and general product or service information. It’s a highly engaging visual to include in the buyer’s journey. 70% of B2B buyers watch videos as part of their product research ahead of conversion.
B2B marketers should be taking inventory of their current content and seeing opportunities to repurpose in a video format. If that’s not encouraging enough, Google is now giving higher ranks to video content over text-based.
Customers clearly want the visual experience during their research, opening the door for augmented as well. AR has come a long way in the last decade. What was once a cool fad to bring up in a brainstorm session, now is a viable business tactic for many B2B companies. It’s also turned into a $160 billion industry.
Need to let customers try before they buy? How about tour your facility? What about adding an interactive experience to your print collateral (e.g., business card, brochure, etc.)? Augmented reality, now more than ever, is a fantastic way to give customers a unique brand experience from the comfort of their (home) office.
Direct email has been the top tactic for prospect engagement over the last several years, and that doesn’t seem to be changing. According to the Content Marketing Institute, 79% of B2B marketers credit email as the most effective distribution channel for demand gen efforts. Furthermore, it was the most implemented B2B marketing tactic last year, used by 84% of marketers.
AI and dynamic content will further increase the relevancy and efficiency of email marketing, as marketers can serve different content to different segments in the same campaign and gain insights from specific data points. And let’s not forget about personalization here.
Among email marketers who have fully embraced personalization in their email efforts, 71% have rated their campaigns as “good” or “excellent,” compared with just 41% who have yet to fully implement personalization. Personalized emails have shown to increase transaction rates 6x.
Despite all the new trends of 2020, it’s good to see Ole Faithful (email) is still going strong.
This may be one of the most surprising trends to emerge in recent memory in the B2B space. A podcast on marketing might not be as exciting as Serial or Dirty John, but 74% of podcast listeners say they listen to podcasts to learn new things. If there are podcasts about gnomes and bugs, why not marketing?
Business podcasts have avid fans in nearly 13 million households and casual fans in at least 52 million households. With an always on-the-move audience, B2B brands should seriously consider how to develop insightful audio content for this fast-growing audience.
When we first saw the B2B marketing metrics for LinkedIn, we did a double take. You mean to tell us 50% of all B2B social traffic comes through LinkedIn, and 80% of all leads come from there as well? Why aren’t people shouting this from the rooftops?
They may not be shouting, but a whopping 94% of marketers now prefer LinkedIn over any other channel to push their content.
Not that other channels don’t still serve a purpose, but LinkedIn is 277% more effective in generating leads than Facebook, and LinkedIn users are 4x more likely to visit your website than Facebook users.
If that’s not a big enough kick to the head for other platforms, LinkedIn generates the highest visitor-to-lead conversation rate at 2.74%, more than 3x higher than Twitter (.69%) and Facebook (.77%).
You can be sure that B2B social activity is quickly moving to LinkedIn. How’s your presence there?
With over half of 2020 in the books, it’s safe to say these eight B2B marketing trends are a large preview of what’s to come in the B2B space, and what’s already here. We hope these insights better guide you in your marketing decisions in the coming year.